Saturday, 26 May 2007
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
We had flown to Indiana for the wedding of our friends Matt and Rachael. Matt is a New Zealander I had worked with at Reuters, Rachael an American who coincidentally happened to be working with me at Lehman Brothers when it crashed. They had decided to get married in Rachael's home town, with they. wedding on the Saturday and the Indie 500 the next day. Not that they are petrol heads, it was just an excellent way to make a weekend of it for everyone travelling in from around the world.
We had flown to New York the night before and stayed at a hotel close to La Guardia, flying to Indiana the next morning. Arriving at Indiana airport we hit the only sour note of the holiday. Our intention after the wedding was to drive cross country back to New York and we had booked a car. However we hit against what was at the time a pretty new restriction for us, the driver (Anna) and the person with the credit card (me) had to be the same. After a bit of an argument we gave up and caught a cab to the hotel.
The wedding was to be held at The Garrison, a former officers barracks in a state park to the NE of town. Quite a lot of the wedding guests were staying in the hotel as well in a couple of former officers houses which they had rented. We arrived and had to change immediately for the service which was held in a pagoda in the garden. The service was quite charming, the pastor being an old friend of the family. We then went for an excellent wedding lunch in the officers mess followed by the speeches. As the afternoon wore on we all got progressively more inebriated and settled in to the dancing.
Sunday, 27 May 2007
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
The only issue with going to the Indy 500 was that we had to leave early to enjoy the whole spectacle. There were several sore heads and people missing however Rachael's parents managed to round everyone up and ferry them to the track side. Sadly it was drizzling nevertheless we had a walk around the car park and observed some of the spectacle.
Once we got everyone together we went into the Brickyard and looked at the various stalls and exhibitions set-up in the vast area enclosed by the track. After a while we went to find our seats, which were situated on a particularly dangerous part of the track. It had stopped raining but the track needed drying so for the first thirty minutes or so we watched cars racing round slowly with big blowers.
Then the racing started and we found that we were truly on crash corner. This was however one of the disadvantages of the style of racing, the frequent crashes meant that the race had to be slowed down by a pace car whilst the track was cleared of debris. During these slow downs the losers would catch up with the winners and so it was not at all clear who was ahead. Unfortunately however the heavens opened up on lap 113 of 200 and this time it was very heavy so we were forced to give up and go back to the Garrison. The race did in fact restart at 1800 but it again got stopped at 166. Interestingly a British guy Dario Franchitti was declared the winner.
Rachael's parents again ferried everyone back through the rain to the hotel. Here we changed and then gathered at one of the rented houses for a few outdoor games and a barbeque once the rain stopped. It was a good night, very relaxed and when the time came to say goodbye to everyone we felt sorry to be leaving as we had been so well looked after.
Monday, 28 May 2007
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Our lack of a car meant a slight change of plan. We had to rely on public transport which meant that in order to get to Niagara Falls we were going to have to take an Amtrak sleeper train from Chicago to Buffalo. This meant we could spend the day looking round Chicago so we hopped on a bus and headed into town.
Chicago was not what I had expected at all. Whilst the outskirts of town were pretty run down the centre of town has been regenerated over the years and now is a very pleasant place to spend a day. The Chicago river is such a glacial blue that its difficult to believe that it flows through a town centre. Not keen to sacrifice part of the day in a dingy museum we walked around taking in the sights and marvelling at the sky scrapers.
Later on we went to an Italian diner for some pizza. It wasn't exactly fine dining and was so huge it was impossible to finish. However it was a classics US experience and something you have to do once. We then boarded the sleeper train and set off into the night bound for Buffalo.
Tuesday, 29 May 2007
Buffalo, New York, USA
If you ever want to go to Niagara Falls do your self a favour and stay on the Canadian side and by no means set foot in Buffalo . The city may have a faded glory to it but when you turn up to find that two out of the five hotels in your guide book are shut down and boarded up you know times are hard. After a bit of looking around we finally found somewhere to stay and set off for the main attraction.
Niagara Falls was a short bus ride away from Buffalo and the trip is less than inspirational. As well as being a tourist attraction the Niagara is a key source of hydro-electric power and this in turn attracts industry that needs to be near that power, aluminium smelters etc. However again industry seemed to have taken a turn for the worse and a lot of the plants that lined the road to the falls were derelict and had been left to fall apart. Niagara town itself was not much better with again a lot of boarded up shops and businesses.
The falls themselves however truly lived up to expectations. We were able to scramble over the top of them walking round Goat Island. We then went on the Maid of the Mist, the powerful boat that takes you almost to the foot of the Horseshoe falls. It was an amazing view and the power of the waterfall was such that the boat's engines had to be on full to hold its position. We then went a step further and took an elevator through the rock behind the American falls to get out at the base and walk around on a set of platform that went up to the side of the falls. It was pretty special however again I would advise anyone else to go the Canadian side where there are a set of tunnels cut behind the more iconic Horseshoe falls which allow you to see the waterfall from the back.
There not being a lot of night life in central Buffalo we decided to head to the Anchor Bar which is the birth place of the Buffalo wing. If you like wings this is very definitely the place to go. You can order them in colossal portions of up to 50. We plumped for a more modest amount but still had a great deal of difficulty finishing them.
Wednesday, 30 May 2007
Ithaca, New York, USA
We got up early and took a bus to Ithaca in the Finger Lakes region. Here we had arranged to stay at a the Country Inn a beautiful hotel in the countryside on the edge of town. Once we had unpacked we went for a walk in Buttermilk Falls State Park, next to the hotel. We walked around in the forest enjoying the peace and quiet and watching chipmunks. Eventually we found a waterfall but I was pretty sure it was not the main set. That night we went out in Ithaca, going to a restaurant along the Commons followed by a great Jazz bar. It was a lively place even though the students had broken up.
Thursday, 31 May 2007
Ithaca, New York, USA
We had decided to rent bikes (a car being out of the question) and try to cycle to one of the Vineyards by the finger lakes. Unfortunately Lake Ithaca does not have the best Vineyards of the lakes and we were fairly limited in what we could reach but we set out anyway. On the way up we stopped of at Taughannock Falls State Park but again did not make it to the main falls. We carried on cycling through charming little hamlets until we finally got to the town of Covert and the Americana Vineyard. Here we tried wine from the Cayuga grape which is local to the lakes region. We then cycled back to Ithaca in the heat of a glorious May day. That evening we ate at the Moosewood Restaurant, an excellent vegetarian with an amazing set of cookbooks one of which we still use to this day.
Friday, 1 June 2007
New York, USA
We were sad to leave Ithaca but we needed to get back to London. So we boarded a Greyhound bus to New York. The trip was very scenic with the bus cutting through the Catskill region of New York. We got to New York later that day and checked into the W followed by dinner at Pastis and then a tour of bars in the Meatpacking district. It was the last day of our holiday so we were determined to enjoy it, which we did!!